Ford joins other Senators in passing ethics reform - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Posted by Anna Marie Hartman, 04/14/05, 10:00 p.m.

Ford joins other Senators in passing ethics reform

Major ethics reform unanimously cleared the Senate Thursday, but not before Sen. John Ford accused colleagues of suffering from a "seared conscience of shame."

It was Sen. John Ford's business deals that sparked a rush to pass sweeping ethics reform.

"You make it appear if you're a consultant you're doing something wrong," said Sen. John Ford, a Memphis Democrat. "I take offense to that."

Ford is under investigation by state and federal agencies for consulting contracts with companies wanting to do business with the state. Thursday he voted in favor of a bill that makes it a felony for government officials or their immediate family members to take money to influence state contracts or legislation.

"When someone is consulting to influence legislation it is bribery and should rise to more than a Class A misdemeanor," said Sen. Diane Black, a Republican from Gallatin.

"Legislators ought not to be lobbyists or influence peddlers," said Sen. Roy Herron, a Dresden Democrat.

During the hours of debate, Ford argued against an amendment that requires lawmakers to disclose all money they receive from anyone who has or wants a state contract.

"You can't do business as a lawyer, or an insurance broker or an auctioneer without doing business with someone who does business with the state of Tennessee, it's impossible, ain't got nothing to do with a conflict of interest," said Ford.

But in the end the yes votes were unanimous, even among Republicans who worry the legislation is too strict.

"We'll get to the point where nobody except retired rich people can serve," said Sen. David Fowler, a Republican from Signal Mountain.

Lawmakers who violate the law could serve up to 15 years in jail with a $10,000 fine.

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